Playing Bridge in Norway

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The European Championships are being played above the Artic Circle in Norway this year so I could not resist visiting the land of my ancestors and playing some bridge. I recommend watching them on vugraph at BBO. You also might look at some of the fun video bridge tips from the championships at

Also try reading some of the daily bulletins at

ViennaCoupEWHere is a play problem I had at the table in the Mixed Pairs. How do you make 13 tricks in notrump on the lead of the J from North who only knew that dummy had five or more hearts to one honor and three controls after our precision auction.

Clearly if spades break 3-3 you are home but if they do not should you play for the finesse in hearts or the squeeze: one hand with four spades and the K?  You can play off all but one minor suit winner before deciding.

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Last Minute Gift Ideas for Bridge Players – Bridge Books

Most bridge players appreciate a good bridge book for Christmas. So here are my suggestions

One of everyone’s all time favorite bridge books is S.J. Simon’s Why You Lose At Bridge, so it is great to see that one of our favorite British authors, Julian Pottage, has written a sequel, Why You Still Lose At Bridge. He features the same delighful characters but highlights some newer concepts in modern bidding that many of us get wrong. The first half of the book discusses eleven common errors that hurt your game. The second half has some wonderful hands with Mrs. Guggenheim, Futile Willy, and company. A good read for all levels.

For the advancing player, Patty Tucker has written a number of books in a series called Winning Bridge Conventions. All are thorough, well-written, and enjoyable. Best of all, they each have many examples that are beautifully laid out on the page. A topic not well covered in the literature that she has done a particularly good job with is Competitive Doubles. This book is suitable for intermediate and better players as well. Get it for your partner for Christmas.

For your expert or aspiring expert friends, the yearly world championship book is always a good pick; but if you want the feel of being at the 2013 championships in Bali on an underdog team try Scotland’s Senior Moment. I am still reading it and am utterly delighted with it.

Merry Christmas and Happy Channukah to all our friends and bridge players everywhere.

A version of this article originally appeared in the District 17 Contract Bridge Forum for December 2014

Are you going to the Nationals in Las Vegas?

One of my favorite things about the game of Bridge is that you can sit down and play against the greatest players in the game just by entering. That’s right, most of the National GreatAuctionSmllChampionships do not require any pre qualification. You may need to be a Life Master or have some minimum number of points however. So the next best thing is to watch a great player. Ask a director for suggestions.

There are also many events for beginning and intermediate players. Playing against your peers might improve your winning chances.

Las Vegas, Nevada is a fabulous place for a bridge championship. There is so much to see and do, plus you can catch a show or a great meal after the evening session!

Click here for more information from the ACBL about the upcoming Nationals starting on July 17.

And if you not heard my talk on opening leads or want to hear it again, I will be speaking on Wednesday July 23 at 6:45. Check the daily bulletin at the tournament for more details.

Balancing when they have stopped at the two level

Today at 2pm at the Riverside California regional tournament I will talk about balancing. Because I was late sending my handout, there will not be copies at my talk so I have uploaded it to my downloads section on this site.

Here are a few highlights from that talk.

When the opponents have stopped in a part score at the two level, should you pass it out or bid? The answer depends on what contract they have stopped in and what kind of hand you have yourself. If they have stopped in two of a minor, that is not necessarily a good score for them since notrump might make more, so only balance when you have the perfect hand for it. However two of a major is almost always a great score for them, so don’t let them play there if at all possible.

And this is the key:

A golden rule of competitive bidding is not to let the opponents play in two of a major when they have an eight card fit. This means that we strain to reopen …

and where to go for more discussion of this concept.

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Happy Birthday John Lowenthal!! Rerelease of Borel

Today would have been John Lowenthal’s 75th birthday. Google may not have done a doodle for him but I will do a blog post in his honor. Plus, with his widow Celia’s permission, I will rerelease the DOS version of his brilliant Borel hand generator (for the technically inclined only!) with instructions on how to use it on a modern PC in my online store Monday night. Proceeds will go to the ACBL Junior Fund (after my costs) as per his wishes.

John was always happy to talk about bridge, to discuss loser count, and his theories on opening leads. He was a mentor and a friend. And most importantly, he always knew where to get the best Chinese food.

He was a great captain for our 1995 Women’s team trials which we won. If he had been able to go to China with us we might have come back with gold rather than silver.

He never yelled and he had a wonderful humorous manner about him. He was an endless source of bridge stories. He originated the “stripe tailed ape” double. That is where in a competitive auction you double the opponents at the five level when they are cold for six since that is a smaller score. But if they redouble you run like stripe-tailed ape.

My favorite funny story about him is how when playing with his first wife in a club game he held 19 points and five diamonds so when she opened 1 he passed that because he knew she could make it but his LHO balanced so he had to bid 2. But when they balanced again he had a new problem, what could he make? After all she had never taken nine tricks in her life … Here it is in the NY Times

If you google “John Lowenthal bridge” you will find many more stories. I love this bridge hand and story about him that his long time partner Phil Martin published

John I miss you!

Now for more about Borel

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Why Bridge Players Would Feel at Home Around Poker Tables

Subtle similarities of bridge and poker

Poker and bridge are two different card games that have much in common. Both share a unique history and unwavering patronage that still make them popular today. From their list of enthusiasts to their present online setting, the trick-taking game and the “bluff” game are almost mirror images. Before I became a serious tournament Bridge player, I supplemented my income in college at the poker table! Here are the top three areas where both games are alike:

1. Mental Exercise gets you ahead in life

Business Insider reported that the best bridge players are often the Wall Street guys, which includes business tycoons like Warren Buffet and David Einhorn. When they are not studying patterns in the stock market, these people look to bridge to test their analytical skills. The article goes on to expound the analytic side of the bridge. You see, the card game deals heavily with pattern recognition and quick decision making skills and so it’s not surprising they turn to bridge which employs the same skills. In the political arena we have many poker players. Betfair has a list of Top Five Poker Playing Presidents  – a list that includes Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower (Ike was also an avid Bridge player). From these sample participants, we might say that both card games attract intelligent people whose professions involve careful planning and strategies. When I taught Bridge back in New York City I would always ask my class why they were taking up the game. One student who worked in the financial sector said, “Career advancement.” His big bosses played both games and he already knew how to play poker.
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Come and hear me talk about Opening Leads in Phoenix

The ACBL Fall National Championships are being held in Phoeniz, AZ starting the day after Thanksgiving.

Kitty in Blue Ribbon finals photo by Peg Kaplan

Kitty in Blue Ribbon finals photo by Peg Kaplan


There are many events for newer players including two celebrity lectures a day. See the list of speakers at the ACBL.


My talk on opening leads will take place Tuesday December 3 at 6:45 p.m. Get ahead by reading my handout in the downloads section here.

World Championships are being played now in Bali

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The vugraph starts every night at 8pm California time (they are 15 hours ahead of us so it is 11:00 am the next morning there). See my previous post on watching vugraph for information on how to watch.

There are three main events, Open (Bermuda Bowl), Women’s (Venice Cup) and Seniors (D’Orsi Bowl). For beginning bridge players I recommend watching the Seniors as they tend to play fewer fancy conventions. This clickable list of the world’s top grandmasters copied from the WBF site might give you an idea of who to watch:

Rank Name Country MPs PPs
Fulvio FANTONI Monaco 4859 41
Claudio NUNES Monaco 4671 39
Giorgio DUBOIN Italy 4004 42
Alfredo VERSACE Italy 3865 46
Lorenzo LAURIA Italy 3628 50.5
Jeff MECKSTROTH U.S.A. 3583 61.25
Bob HAMMAN U.S.A. 3502 109.25
Eric RODWELL U.S.A. 3391 60.75
Geir HELGEMO Monaco 3092 34.5
Tor HELNESS Monaco 3031 36
Zia MAHMOOD U.S.A. 2942 31.75
Norberto BOCCHI Italy 2842 34
Nick NICKELL U.S.A. 2821 38.25
Cezary BALICKI Poland 2542 29
Ralph KATZ U.S.A. 2373 22.25
Bauke MULLER Netherlands 2363 18
Louk VERHEES Jr Netherlands 2345 11
Sjoert BRINK Netherlands 2332 12.5
Antonio SEMENTA Italy 2320 18
Robert (Bobby) LEVIN U.S.A. 2306 21
Bas DRIJVER Netherlands 2291 12.5
Adam ZMUDZINSKI Poland 2264 29
Ricco VAN PROOIJEN Netherlands 2204 10.5
Simon DE WIJS Netherlands 2187 10
Franck MULTON Monaco 2184 21
Peter BERTHEAU Sweden 2130 11.5
Steve WEINSTEIN U.S.A. 2101 13
Fredrik NYSTROM Sweden 2064 11.5

My favorite to watch in the Senior event is Bob Hamman. Zia and Levin play less complicated systems and are great to watch in the Open. Kerri Shuman is wonderful to watch in the Women’s event.

Click the read more for some URLs about these championships.

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